Joe Cronin

Trail Blazers Name Joe Cronin Permanent GM

Joe Cronin, who has served as interim general manager of the Trail Blazers since December, will get the job on a permanent basis along with a four-year contract, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. The team has confirmed the news in a press release.

Cronin was given a chance to audition for the role when he replaced Neil Olshey, who was fired December 3 after an investigation involving workplace conduct. Portland’s ownership group considered opening up the job to other candidates, according to Wojnarowski, but eventually decided to stick with Cronin based on his “vision for the franchise and his ability to execute it.”

Cronin has a strong bond with first-year coach Chauncey Billups, Woj adds, which convinced management that they can work together effectively in trying to rebuild the franchise.

“Joe has shown in his short time as interim GM that he is more than ready to continue leading the front office,” said Trail Blazers chair Jody Allen. “We remain excited for the future of Trail Blazers basketball with Joe and Chauncey driving a cohesive plan to build an even more competitive and winning roster.”

The Blazers are coming a disappointing 27-55 season, but Cronin took the first steps in forging a path for the future. At the trade deadline, he sent long-time fan favorite CJ McCollum to the Pelicans and moved Norman Powell and Robert Covington to the Clippers. In return, Cronin picked up some draft capital and the flexibility to create cap space if Portland wants to be aggressive on the free agent market.

Cronin will have important decisions to make this summer, Wojnarowski notes, including possible extensions for Damian Lillard and Anfernee Simons, along with a potential new deal for Jusuf Nurkic. The Blazers will also have a lottery pick in next month’s draft and a $21MM trade exception.

Cronin joined the organization as a basketball operations intern in 2006. He has worked with four leadership teams and was promoted to assistant general manager in 2021.

“I would like to thank Jody and (Vice Chair Bert Kolde) for this opportunity and a long list of other incredible people that have put their faith and trust in me not only over the last six months, but the last 16 years,” Cronin said. “My focus has always been creating a championship team and culture that players, coaches, and staff want to be a part of. I look forward to continuing that focus with the vision that Chauncey, (president of basketball operations Dewayne Hankins) and I share while unifying our business and basketball operations on and off the court.”

Blazers Rumors: Draft Picks, Grant, Cronin, Ownership

The Pelicans’ play-in victories last week were bad news for the Trail Blazers, who would’ve received New Orleans’ 2022 first-round pick if it had fallen between No. 5 and No. 14. Having missed out on that pick, which ended up at No. 15, Portland will instead receive Milwaukee’s 2025 first-rounder (top-four protected). That future pick won’t be as valuable in trade talks for a team looking to accelerate its rebuild this offseason.

According to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, it’s clear based on conversation with league personnel that the Blazers were operating under the assumption they’d have two lottery picks available, and there was a sense they’d try to use one of them to acquire an impact veteran like Pistons forward Jerami Grant.

“That was a big deal to them,” a Western Conference official told Fischer. “The expectation was certainly, ‘Once we get this pick, we’ll turn it into someone. We’ll overpay to get someone.'”

As Fischer and others reported at the trade deadline in February, the Pistons were seeking either two first-round picks or a first-round pick and a promising young player (such as Bulls forward Patrick Williams) in exchange for Grant. Detroit’s asking price will likely be similar this offseason, though there’s some skepticism it will be met, Fischer writes.

The Blazers’ willingness to overpay for a player like Grant will be diminished by the fact that they missed out on New Orleans’ lottery pick, according to Fischer, who says Portland hasn’t shown any desire to trade its own lottery pick, which will almost certainly land in the top eight.

Here’s more from Fischer on the Blazers:

  • Damian Lillard has indicated to the Blazers’ front office that he’d like to play alongside a “two-way, rangy” wing, sources tell Bleacher Report. In addition to Grant, Fischer names Aaron Gordon, Ben Simmons, and Jaylen Brown as players who would appeal to Lillard, though it’s unclear whether any of them will be available this offseason — Brown, certainly, appears to be off the table.
  • According to Fischer, interim general manager Joe Cronin appears likely to keep the Blazers’ GM job on a full-time basis. However, it’s possible the team will ultimately hire someone above him in the basketball operations hierarchy, like Philadelphia did by bringing in Daryl Morey to run a front office previously led by GM Elton Brand. Fischer’s sources are split on whether such a move is likely.
  • Since the regular season ended, multiple sources have suggested to Fischer that the Blazers could begin exploring the market for new ownership as early as this summer. Some league insiders believe a sale of the franchise could be completed before the end of 2023, Fischer adds. Jody Allen – the sister of longtime Blazers owner Paul Allen, who passed away in 2018 – currently controls the team.

Blazers Notes: Lillard, McCollum, Bledsoe, Free Agents, Luxury Tax, Cronin

Damian Lillard is unlikely to play again this season as he recovers from abdominal surgery, Sean Highkin of the Bleacher Report tweets.

As Highkin relays, Trail Blazers interim general manager Joe Cronin indicated there’s little reason for Lillard to suit up for the retooling club, even though his recovery is going well. If that’s the case, Lillard’s season ended on New Year’s Eve. He appeared in 29 games this season, averaging 24.0 PPG and 7.3 APG.

Lillard has been consulted on the team’s trades over the past week and the blueprint for the future.

“Damian has been great. He communicates with (head coach) Chauncey (Billups) and I constantly,” Cronin said, per Highkin (Twitter link). “He’s fully caught up with what our plans are and were and is very integral to what our plans are.”

Several other interesting tidbits came out of Portland’s press conference. Here are some of the other highlights:

  • Discussing the trade that sent CJ McCollum to the Pelicans, Cronin said, “It was really important to us that CJ separated from us on good terms, and I think we did that” (Twitter link).
  • Eric Bledsoe, who was acquired from the Clippers in the deal that sent Norman Powell and Robert Covington to L.A., won’t be bought out, according to Cronin. Bledsoe’s $19.4MM contract for next season is only partially guaranteed for $3.9MM, so Portland can decide on his future in the offseason. (Twitter link).
  • Despite blowing up the roster, Cronin believes the team can attract free agents. “I’m confident that we can be competitive with free agents. With Chauncey Billups, Damian Lillard and myself, we can get into meetings and we’re not afraid to go after players.” (Twitter link).
  • The front office felt the team could no longer compete for a title with the previous roster, according to Casey Holdahl of “It had become evident to us that the roster had plateaued,” Cronin said. “It was a team that was built to fit a specific coaching style and a style of play that we didn’t feel was conducive to the way Chauncey and myself wanted to play. With that, we were capped out, we were looking at a team that would have been in the luxury tax by $15 million next season with not many ways to improve.”
  • Luxury tax concerns were a major focus in each of Portland’s trades, particularly the blockbuster with the Clippers. “The deal was important for us because it got us out of the luxury tax this year, which completely reset our repeater clock, meaning we don’t go back in, even if we’re in the tax in future seasons, until at least 2025,” Cronin said. “And the trade also gave us a bunch of leverage in the next deals that we needed to make where teams would no longer hold getting us out of the luxury tax as a part of the negotiation. So that was a good deal for us.”
  • President of business operations Dewayne Hankins said Cronin is a serious candidate for the permanent GM position, Highkin tweets. “Ownership is still in the process of an equitable search. Joe is obviously a candidate for it, and he has the keys to do what he needs to do.”

Western Notes: Looney, Cronin, Blazers, Clippers, Engelland

Warriors center Kevon Looney has served as a surprise iron man for the team this season, Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area writes. Looney is one of six NBA players to start in every one of his team’s games, joining Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Mikal Bridges, Franz Wagner and Saddiq Bey.

“Loon just does his work every single day,” head coach Steve Kerr said. “He’s the ultimate pro. He understands his body. He understands what it takes to maintain his health and his conditioning, and he’s worked really hard to get to this point.

“He’s been through an awful lot in his career, as you well know, dealing with two hip surgeries and the neuropathy issue from a couple years ago.”

Much of the Warriors’ success has been attributed to Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins, but Looney has played an important role for the club. In 53 games, he’s averaged 6.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 21.1 minutes per contest, shooting 55% from the floor.

Here are some other notes from the Western Conference:

  • Blazers interim general manager Joe Cronin cited cap flexibility for why the team traded Norman Powell and Robert Covington to the Clippers on Friday, Ben Golliver of The Washington Post tweets. Portland acquired Eric Bledsoe, Justise Winslow, Keon Johnson and a 2025 second-round pick in the deal, ducking below the tax this season and clearing some money from the team’s books in future seasons.
  • Kevin Pelton of ESPN grades the Blazers-Clippers trade, explaining why he likes the deal more for Los Angeles than Portland. L.A. currently ranks 8th in the Western Conference at 27-27, while Portland sits at 10th with a 21-32 record. Both teams have dealt with injuries to star players this season, as Paul George and Damian Lillard have only played in 26 and 29 games, respectively. Kawhi Leonard has also remained out as he rehabs a torn ACL.
  • Spurs assistant Chip Engelland has cleared the NBA’s health and safety protocols, according to Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News (Twitter link). San Antonio now has all of its coaches back. Engelland entered protocols on January 26, the same day that assistants Becky Hammon and Darius Songaila both exited them.

Cronin: Blazers Not Planning To Blow Up Roster

The Trail Blazers have fallen short of their expectations on the court this season, having posted a 21-31 record to date. The team has also undergone front office and head coaching changes within the last year. However, interim general manager Joe Cronin told Mark Medina of that the Blazers don’t plan to blow up their roster and launch a full-fledged rebuild at the trade deadline.

“I don’t think we have the appetite to tear it all the way down,” Cronin said. “We have too many good players and too many ways to get better without taking too big of a step back.”

When I previewed the trade deadline for Northwest teams on Thursday, I wrote that the Blazers’ most likely path would be to hang onto players like Damian Lillard, Anfernee Simons, and Nassir Little while perhaps moving one or more veterans from a group that includes CJ McCollum, Norman Powell, Robert Covington, and Jusuf Nurkic.

In his conversation with Medina, Cronin didn’t confirm or deny shopping specific players, but hinted that Portland would be open to reshaping its roster to have a better chance of competing in 2022/23 and beyond, even if it means taking a bit of a hit in the short term.

“It’s delicate,” Cronin said when asked about the team’s short- and long-term goals. “I think we all take a big-picture approach knowing that one season is a small vacuum of a larger picture. It’s hard. We’re all so competitive that we want to win consistently. Sometimes to do that, you have to take a step back at times. Sometimes you just have to be patient. So, you’re trying to balance deal by deal what accomplishes the overall big-picture goals.”

Here are a few more of the most noteworthy comments Cronin made in his discussion with Medina:

On what message ownership has sent the interim GM about his job status:

“They’ve been very open with me as far as I’ll have an opportunity to keep this job. But there’s going to be a (GM) search. They showed a lot of trust in me by allowing me to make some decisions with staffing and going into this trade deadline with some roster decisions. So, the trust they’ve shown is really I can ask for and it’s a big compliment. We’ll just take it as we go as far as what the job search looks like and what my chances are.”

On Lillard’s recovery from abdominal surgery:

“It’s coming along great. The surgery was a success. That had been bothering him for years and years. It’s a big relief for him to finally address it. The hope that comes with it is knowing it’s a lot better and that this is really going to enhance his game and hopefully prolong his career.

“… We’re going to be patient and make sure he’s fully healed physically and mentally. I think the break for him is really good. These years really ran together the last three. The weight that he carries, that’s a lot. The way he carried through that injury. Physically, we want to make sure he’s good. Mentally, we want to make sure he’s refreshed and ready to go whenever he comes back.”

On whether the Blazers’ place in the standings will influence Lillard’s return date:

“With our whole approach, it’s going to be big-picture. We’re not going to rush him back just to win a few ball games. We’re going to make sure he’s healthy and right and perform for many years, not just this closing season. We’ll address it and look at it. But I don’t want to put any pressure on him. He can come back once he’s fully healed.”

Blazers Rumors: McCollum, Powell, Covington, Patterson

The Trail Blazers are considered one of the NBA’s most active teams in trade discussions leading up to the February 10 deadline, according to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, who says the Hawks, Pacers, Kings, and Pelicans also fall into that group.

While it remains to be seen exactly what direction Portland will take at the deadline, it seems clear the team remains motivated to shed a little salary to get out of luxury tax territory, Fischer writes. Rival executives who have spoken to Bleacher Report suggest CJ McCollum, Norman Powell, Jusuf Nurkic, and Robert Covington could all be trade candidates.

Here’s more on the Blazers:

  • The Pelicans have been the team most frequently linked to McCollum, says Fischer. Fischer suggests a package of Jonas Valanciunas and Josh Hart might make sense, but acknowledges that New Orleans will be reluctant to part with Valanciunas, preferring to move players like Tomas Satoransky and Jaxson Hayes.
  • Noting that Portland has been among Jerami Grant‘s suitors, Fischer wonders if Powell might appeal to the Pistons. Detroit is believed to prefer draft picks and young players in any Grant trade, but Dwane Casey coached Powell in Toronto and Fischer says the Pistons were one of Powell’s top options as a free agent last summer.
  • Despite their reported interest in Covington, the Jazz have been described by Fischer’s sources as an unlikely landing spot for the Blazers forward.
  • The Blazers moved quickly earlier this month to hire former Cavaliers executive Andrae Patterson as an assistant general manager, according to Fischer, who says Patterson received a job offer just one day after Portland requested permission to interview him. He’ll have “significant input” in the team’s draft and free agency planning.
  • Besides hiring Patterson, interim GM Joe Cronin has also made changes to the Blazers’ scouting department, public relations department, and medical staff, so there’s no reason to believe he won’t have the go-ahead to make major roster changes too, Fischer writes.

Scotto’s Latest: A. Holiday, LeVert, Cronin, Pistons, Simmons

Wizards guard Aaron Holiday is considered to be available via trade, according to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype, who said on the latest HoopsHype Podcast that multiple teams have checked in on Holiday’s price tag.

The Wizards acquired Holiday from Indiana in the five-team offseason trade that sent Russell Westbrook to Los Angeles. As the team’s backup point guard this season, the ex-Pacer has averaged 6.2 PPG and 1.9 APG on .475/.382/.808 shooting in 35 games (16.2 MPG). He’ll be eligible for restricted free agency during the 2022 offseason.

Here’s more from Scotto:

  • Most executives around the league believe Caris LeVert is now the most likely Pacers player to be traded, in the wake of Myles Turner‘s foot injury, says Scotto. There’s a sense that teams may lower their offers for Turner or back off pursuing him entirely, Scotto adds.
  • A number of rival execs believe Trail Blazers interim general manager Joe Cronin has a chance to keep the job on a permanent basis, according to Scotto. Interestingly, Portland announced a series of front office hires and promotions today — none of those moves impacts the very top of the team’s basketball operations department, but the fact that the franchise is actively adding and promoting executives under an interim GM is noteworthy.
  • On Tuesday, Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report suggested that the Pistons offered Jerami Grant, Saddiq Bey, Kelly Olynyk, and a first-round pick for Ben Simmons earlier in the season, and the Sixers weren’t enthusiastic about the concept. Scotto has heard that Detroit’s offer, which was turned down by Philadelphia, actually consisted of Grant, Bey, and Josh Jackson.

Trail Blazers Hire Andrae Patterson As Assistant GM

4:07pm: Patterson has been officially hired, Portland announced in a press release.

2:39pm: Trail Blazers interim general manager Joe Cronin plans to hire Andrae Patterson as an assistant general manager, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). Patterson has been serving as the Cavaliers‘ senior director of basketball operations and also spent multiple years in a front office role with the Jazz, Wojnarowski adds.

Blazers ownership has given Cronin the freedom to add to his front office staff and Patterson will be receiving a promotion in his new role as assistant GM, Woj tweets. Patterson is a former NBA player and is highly regarded throughout the league, according to John Hollinger of The Athletic (via Twitter), who adds that he likes the hire.

The move seems to indicate that Portland’s ownership likes how Cronin has performed thus far on an interim basis, which bodes well for his prospects at keeping the general manager position permanently. It will be interesting to see what the Blazers do prior to the trade deadline with Damian Lillard sidelined after surgery. Portland has been active in trade talks and the expectation is the team will continue to explore ways to reshape its roster.

Blazers Notes: Billups, Cronin, Lillard, Struggles, Zeller

Trail Blazers head coach Chauncey Billups and interim GM Joe Cronin have an interesting shared history, according to Jason Quick of The Athletic. Billups and Cronin were high school opponents in 1994, when they competed for the Colorado Class 6A state championship.

Billups was the star of George Washington High and led his team to a 71-67 victory over Cronin’s Horizon High. Billups had 31 points and nine assists in the title game, while Cronin had 22 points and 15 rebounds in defeat.

After Cronin joined the Blazers as an intern in 2006, he was quickly promoted to scouting assistant, and later assistant director of scouting and salary cap analyst. While Billups was playing in the NBA, he noticed Cronin’s name in Portland’s front office department and was dying to know if it was the same person he’d competed against many years before, per Quick.

I was 10 years into my NBA career, and I was looking at the front offices around the league, and I see Joe Cronin’s name,” Billups remembered. “And I wondered to myself: Is that the Joe Cronin? So I started asking questions. And I wanted to see a picture. I wanted to see if this was actually Joe.”

However, Cronin was always on the road scouting, so Billups never got confirmation that it was the same person he knew from high school until he interviewed for the head coaching job over the summer.

When this opportunity came up, and I was talking to Neil [Olshey], I was like: ‘Where is Joe? I need to see Joe. I need to make sure this is the same dude,'” Billups said.

Billups finally saw Cronin on a Zoom interview and recognized him immediately, 27 years later, Quick relays.

Here’s more from Portland:

  • Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated takes a close look at the relationship between Billups and star point guard Damian Lillard. “We’re forming a bond more so than anything else, it’s just like we always sit and talk over everything. And that’s something that’s fun to have,” Billups said.
  • Lillard gave a speech to the Blazers last Monday imploring them not give up on the season, Quick writes for The Athletic. “This is the moment a lot of teams choose to just pack it in and say, you know, it’s tough, we are this many games under .500 and we haven’t been playing great … and they just fold and become one of those bottom teams,” Lillard said he told the team. “And I just said that’s not who we are … it’s not the situation we want to be in, but we dig. We dig out and find a way, and we are going to do that once again.”
  • In a separate article, Quick explores what has gone wrong for the Blazers this season and how they can try to climb out of the hole. They currently have a 12-18 record, 11th in the West.
  • Backup center Cody Zeller has suffered a small right patellar fracture (broken kneecap), the team announced on Dec. 11. In the release, the Blazers said he’ll be reevaluated in one week, but an update on his recovery timeline has yet to be posted. Zeller is having a solid season for Portland, averaging 5.1 PPG and 4.6 RPG in 24 games (13.3 MPG).

Joe Cronin Will Be Given Chance At Blazers’ GM Job

At a potentially crucial stage for the Trail Blazers, interim general manager Joe Cronin will be given the opportunity to earn his position on a permanent basis, writes Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian.

At a press conference Thursday, new president of business operations Dewayne Hankins said the organization is in the “first quarter” of its GM search and there’s no timeline to fill the role. Hankins said franchise chair Jody Allen and vice chair Bert Kolde will give Cronin the freedom to handle all the typical GM duties, but his primary mission will be to reform the roster to contend for a title.

“Ownership has been very upfront with me and they’ve told me that they believe in me and obviously by giving me this role, they trust me to transition this organization,” Cronin said. “So they haven’t made many declarations other than, ‘This is a nice venue for you to be able to do good work, and you’ll be evaluated,’ and I do have a chance. They told me, ‘You’ll have an opportunity. This is going to be a fair opportunity to prove yourself.'”

Cronin, who took over as interim GM after Neil Olshey was fired last week, said he has been working with coach Chauncey Billups to identify players around the league who might be available before the February 10 trade deadline. The slumping Blazers may have to shake up their roster soon after dropping four straight games and sliding to 11th place in the Western Conference.

Cronin explained to reporters that he will talk to other GMs about potential deals, but won’t finalize anything without approval from Allen and Kolde.

“The way I’ve kind of approached this is, I’m going to get the deal to the one-yard line, and then I’m going to take it to Jody and Bert, and then they make the final call,” Cronin said. “They’ll have our recommendations as to what to do. So, it’s pretty standard that way in the regard of there is a clearinghouse you have to go through. But my understanding is yes, go out, do your job, find deals, participate as if you are the GM.”

Trade rumors have surrounded the franchise for months, particularly involving star guard Damian Lillard. However, Lillard made a statement this week that he remains committed to staying in Portland and isn’t looking for a deal. Backcourt partner CJ McCollum is also seen as a potential trade candidate, along with Robert Covington and Jusuf Nurkic, who both have expiring contracts.

Billups, who also spoke at the press conference, said he wants a team that plays smart and shows competitive fire. He has criticized his players on numerous occasions for their effort following losses.

“Our roster is our roster and we’ve got some really talented players,” Billups said. “And when we’re playing well, we’re playing together, we’re pretty damn good. We’ve proven that already this year. And then we can be pretty bad too.”